The thousand millenia warning


Scientists from the US Energy Department are working on signage designed to last, and be intelligible, for hundreds of millenia warning future generations about the dangers of nuclear waste.

Nuclear warning sign from Millpnd USA

Today’s warning signs may mean nothing in 10,000 years

The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, thousands of metres underground, is designed to hold tonnes of plutonium and radiated labroratory equipment in safe storage. The plant is designed to collapse in one thousand years, locking the waste up for ever.

The problem is that civilisations beyond that first millenia are likely to be interested in what is buried there and must be warned not to open the vault.

A team of scientists including linguists and archeologists are working on the warning system which will take over a century to complete. The first level of defense is a 10 metre high berm built from 32.5 million tonnes of stone.

Powerful magnets and radar reflectors would be buried inside the berm so that remote sensors could recognize the site as purposefully and elaborately designed. Twenty pillars each wighing105 tonne  will be covered in warnings in different languages and complemented by a series of plastic, metal and ceramic disks scattered around the site, and an entire museum built specifically to provide permanent warnings, explanations and translation tools for future civilisations.

The waste dump is expected to be complete in 2033, and guarded for a century before being abandoned. Full story on LA Times  

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